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Asylum policy

#Migration crisis in Germany: Can a refugee-friendly policy cause a terrorist threat?

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german-migrantsAs the refugee crisis in Europe continues to gain its pace, Germany seems to have lost its grip on refugee resettlements control, writes Olga Malik.

Sexual attacks in Cologne followed by assaults on women in Kiel and Nuremberg, fights and unrests within refugee camps have made local residents experience a new reality full of brutality and aggression. However, single crime incidents might be the lesser evil compared with the growing terrorist threat of the poorly controlled refugee camps in Germany and all over the EU.

Snowball effect

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Uncontrolled refugee camps continue their expansion across the EU. Only in Germany the new refugee camps for immigrants from Syria and Iraq are yet to appear in 2016. However, with the understaffed police in Germany it is almost impossible to expect a proper control of the refugees benefiting from this chaotic situation. Being less vulnerable and policed members from IS and IS-allied groups can easily penetrate to Germany causing an obvious danger and terrorism threat to the EU.

However, while the German authorities are not publicly announcing the information about newly-appearing refugee resettlements to avoid public fear and anger, the new mini-spots for refugees in outskirts of the German cities with the number of immigrants getting beyond the government control. The snowball effect of chaotic migration flows has proved its incredible danger in other parts of the world. The best example of this can be the uncontrolled Afghan settlements in Northern Pakistan which were the beginning of Taliban.

What’s next?

Earlier this year the German society was split apart on the question of way of dealing with refugees. While conservatives supported the government’s idea to erase valuables from arriving refugees in order to compensate the budget expenses and implement compulsory integration of refuges, supporters of social democratic movement proclaimed more “civilized” approach. Nevertheless the majority from both blocks agreed on Chancellor Merkel’s failure to manage the migration crisis. Merkel’s public speeches assuring the government would be able to cope with uncontrolled refugee flows gained much less support and trust from the public. The public outrage reached its peak after the mass sexual assaults on women in Cologne on the New Year’s Eve.

According to the local social activist Markus Lehmann, the continuous unrest among refugees and inability of government authorities to manage the migrant crisis may be fatal for Germany as well as entire Europe. The recent terrorist attack in the Brussels airport that shrugged the entire European Union was a perfect example of it, the activist said.

But not welcoming refugees is not a solution. Most of the times it is not refugees who cause terrorist threats but the local residents who carry radical ideas in minds and use refugees as a perfect tool to reach their goals. Many refugees from the war-raged environments are well-educated persons representing the middle class of their homelands. They have proved their ability to adopt the EU values, learn a new language and even add to the economic development of the EU. Perhaps a better control and smart use of so-called “soft power” to trace the refuge flow would help to avoid a growing terrorist threat I Europe.

Olga Malik is an independent journalist and political writer.

Asylum policy

Agreement on asylum agency is ‘an important step towards solidarity’

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Negotiators of the European Parliament and Council today (29 June) reached an agreement on transforming the European Asylum Support Office into a European Agency for Asylum.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is in motion. I am very pleased with this second legislative agreement since I took office. We need asylum decisions to be taken in a fast and fair manner and with the same high quality everywhere in Europe. And we need high and convergent reception standards across member states. The new Agency will help achieve this, building on the excellent work of EASO (European Asylum Support Office). It will also help us move away from crisis into preparedness and response – a key step towards sustainable migration management in Europe.”

Elena Yoncheva MEP (S&D, Bulgaria) said: “This is an important step toward an asylum policy based on solidarity, which we are fighting for here in the European Parliament; solidarity with the frontline member states, but also solidarity with those who need protection.”

Building on the experience of the European Asylum Support Office, the new agency will have a reinforced mandate that aims to contribute to:

More efficient asylum systems through greater operational and technical support to member states, including training, preparedness, information analysis, and exchange of information.

A reserve of 500 experts including interpreters, case handlers or reception specialists ready to be deployed as part of asylum support teams at the request of member states.

Uniform, high-quality decision-making by developing operational standards, indicators, guidelines and best practices for the implementation of Union law on asylum.

Better monitoring and reporting on asylum and reception systems to ensure more consistent practices throughout Europe, in line with EU law. 

Capacity building in non-EU countries to improve asylum and reception systems and support EU resettlement schemes, building on the existing co-operation with UN agencies.

A long running saga

The European Commission initially introduced its proposal for an EU asylum agency in May 2016, following the surge of migrants from war-torn Syria. Arriving at a time of deep economic malaise and division, migration further divided European states and pushed political agreement beyond reach. There has been a long hard slog since to achieve broad political agreement. The new Commission brought new impetus to this issue, led by Commissioner Johansson who introduced a new migration and asylum pact proposal in September 2020. The pact maintained the 2016 proposal for an asylum agency that was agreed on today. 

"The compromise today on the European Asylum Agency also gives hope for upcoming negotiations on the Migration Pact, the reform package of new EU migration laws. We now urge member states to step up negotiations in an equally constructive way on the Migration Pact for a stronger, more efficient EU migration policy,” said Tomas Tobé MEP, (EPP, Sweden).

Today's agreement is the second legislative agreement on the new pact proposals, following agreement on the Blue Card Directive in May. 

Since taking up its responsibilities in 2011, EASO has continuously supported EU states in applying EU asylum rules, by providing national country-of-origin information to encourage more uniform decisions, training and setting up dedicated networks of national authorities to enhance operational co-operation on asylum-related matters.

In 2021, EASO is working with a budget of €142 million and some 500 staff. Asylum support teams are present in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. Over the past 10 years, EASO registered 40% of all asylum applications in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta, carried out 80% of best-interest assessments for children in Greece and supported all post-disembarkation relocations from Cyprus, Italy and Malta.

What next?

The agreement reached today needs to be formally endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council. As soon as the new regulation has entered into force (20 days after publication in the Official Journal), the European Asylum Support Office will become the EU Agency for Asylum and will be able to act based on its new mandate.

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Asylum policy

Commissioner Johansson attends the launch of the Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU

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Today (29 June), Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson (pictured) will attend the launch of the 10th edition of the Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU, published by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The Commissioner will be joined by EASO's Executive Director, Nina Gregori, and the Chair of the EASO Management Board, Mikael Ribbenvik. The annual report provides a comprehensive overview of key developments in the area of asylum in the EU Member States and associated countries. The report will present trends in asylum in 2020, with a special focus on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on national and EU asylum systems. The report will also outline policy changes, good practices and persisting challenges in the field of asylum. For embargoed press material, please contact EASO directly.

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Asylum policy

Turkey’s policy in #Libya threatens EU

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The Turkish intervention into the Libyan conflict caused the negative effect for the region: the balance of power changed and the GNA liberated Tripoli from the LNA forces and recently started a big-scale offensive on Sirte city. On 6 June after negotiations with the Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa  and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, issued the Cairo Declaration.

It is based on the agreements reached at the Berlin Conference on Libya in January. According to Cairo Declaration, "all parties undertake to cease fire from 6h local time on Monday, 8 June". In addition, it provides for the continuation of negotiations in Geneva under UN patronage of a joint military committee in the 5+5 format (five representatives from each side). Further progress on other issues, including political, economic and security, will depend on the success of its work.

EU Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Mayo welcomed the declaration and called for the cessation of all hostilities in Libya and the withdrawal of all foreign troops and military equipment from the country.

The French president noted that Turkey is playing "a dangerous game" in Libya. "I don't want in six months, or one year or two, to see that Libya is in the situation that Syria is in today," Macron added.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendyas announced on Wednesday 24 June in a statement following the visit of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel to Evros that Turkey "continues to undermine security and stability, as well as peace in the Eastern Mediterranean", causing problems for all its neighbours. "Turkey has continuously violated the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. In Libya, again in clear disregard for international legitimacy, it violates the UN embargo in pursuit of its neo-Osmanian aspirations. It openly ignores Europe's repeated calls for respect for international legitimacy," Dendyas said.

Turkey rejected the Cairo Declaration: The "Cairo Initiative" on the Libyan settlement is “not convincing” and insincere, declared Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. After the Cairo Declaration Chairman of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj urged the GNA troops to "continue their path" towards Sirte.

The recent success of the GNA troops is caused by the participation of Syrian mercenaries, connected with jihadists, who actively were sent in Libya by Turkey to fight against the LNA from may 2019. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the number of fighters from the pro-Turkey Syrian factions today can reach more than 18 000. Generally, the mercenaries are from Al-Mu'tasim Brigade, the Sultan Murad Brigade, the Northern Falcons Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah. The mercenaries are promised to be paid 1500-2000 $ a month, but the current monthly salary of each fighter is around 400$.

The policy of Turkey in the Libyan region represents destructive neo-Ottoman and pan-islamist strategy, which is based on the neocolonialist ambitions. The possible explanation for the intervention to Libya is the instability in Turkey itself and the Erdogan’s loss of popularity (the support of AKP party came from 33.9 in February 2020 to 30.7 in May 2020 according to Metropol). The Turkish president uses the Islamic narrative (in Libya as the war on side of the GNA, in Turkey – the initiative to convert Hagia Sophia back into Mosque) for the legitimation of his power. İbrahim Karagül , the columnist in the mainstream Yeni Şafak media of Turkish Republic wrote:“Turkey will never withdraw from Libya. It will not give up before achieving its aim.”

The major pro-Erdogan media spread this neocolonialist agenda about from November 2019 (when GNA signed 2 deals with Erdogan): Libya is seen as a part of the neo-ottoman empire.

Threat for the EU

The negative effect of the neo-ottoman agenda in Libya is the threat of the new migration crisis, which can happen to the EU. In march 2020 Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, declared, that Turkey will not close the borders for refugees until the EU fulfills its promises to Ankara. Recently Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has noted the surge of a new wave of refugees to Europe amidst the stabilization of the COVID-19 situation. If Turkey responds to this challenge, Europe will face a new migration crisis and its social services will feel the main blow from the new wave of refugees.

The other front of threat is the Libyan costs, the starting point for the trip of migrants to Europe. Nearly 2,000 Turkish-backed Syrian militants that were transported to Libya over the last five months have fled the north African nation for Europe according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

European governments are taking steps to actively counter Turkish policy in Libya: France has already addressed NATO on this issue. French president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump, and more exchanges on the issue are expected in the coming weeks.

In order to protect European interests, it is important to protect Libya from Turkish expansion and to prevent Erdogan from gaining control over the country's assets.

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